[Sept 5]--So What’s Your Point, Steve? Part Two

Acts 7:17-43

Yesterday we examined one theory as to what’s the pattern in Stephen’s sermon in front of the Sanhedrin. I forgot to mention it, but I got the “God actually works outside the boundaries of Israel” explanation from a book entitled The Summons by Dennis McCallum. Today I’d like to submit another one which I found in the NIV Study Bible. I want to emphasize that both theories have arguments to support them. Stephen doesn’t explicitly explain why he’s pointing out these stories, so all we can do is try to pick out the pattern.

As I’ve noted for you before, anyone who tries to dismiss the Bible as a bunch of made-up stories has a slight problem. If you were making up stories about your people and nation, wouldn’t you make yourself look good in them? This was the common practice in the ancient Middle East: Setting down a true history of your king’s regime could easily get you killed. As far as I know, this tendency in America where we try to honestly face up to our early failures as a nation (slavery, Jim Crow laws, the way we treated the Native Americans, etc.) is a relatively modern practice.

But the official history of Israel is replete with failure after failure after failure. There’s only one fairly positive book of the Bible in that regard: Joshua. And even Joshua has its incident with Achan.

The pattern which the Study Bible finds is that of rejecting God’s messengers. Joseph was not just rejected by his brothers but was sold into slavery. Stephen makes a point about Moses’ early attempt to save his people and the famous quote by an unnamed Hebrew: “Who made you ruler and judge over us?” Then later out in the wilderness, the Chosen People couldn’t fall into idolatry fast enough. Moses had just been away on the mountain for a few days when Israelites went to Aaron and told him “Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don't know what has happened to him!” Throughout their history, the Lord sent prophet after prophet after prophet to them. The times in which the people in general actually listened to God’s messenger were few and far between. Have you ever heard the term “Don’t kill the messenger”? It’s more than just a figurative aphorism here.

And Stephen’s final barb is that in fighting the Good News, it wasn’t a mere man they were rejecting here but the Holy Spirit behind him. It was the Holy Spirit who called the prophets (starting with Moses) and told them what to say. Finally the Father sent Jesus, his one and only Son, to be the ultimate “Peace Offering,” and what happened? They nailed him to a tree.

And even now, while Stephen was still talking, they were being wooed by this same Spirit. The Spirit was speaking to their hearts, telling them “Listen to this man! He’s telling you the truth!” And they were resisting his voice.

The application’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? I believe that God is pretty much always talking to us. Mainly through his word, but also through the movement of the Holy Spirit through us. He speaks to us through siblings in Christ, and through circumstances. Am I listening? Are you?

Father, please open my spiritual ears when they get stopped up or when I let distractions drown you out. I’m listening, or at least trying to.

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